On Saturday I sat down with a group of eight middle schools students, Forest View alumni who are participating in the John Hope Franklin Young Scholars Program, to talk about their favorite Forest View memories. They reminisced about how much easier life was for them as elementary students (not as many progress reports! Less homework! More recess!), they shared stories about the “old” playground where they learned gymnastics, and how they missed the “good mornings” and “have a great day, falcons!” at kiss and drop off.
But talk very quickly turned to teachers. The phone call from a teacher inviting them to his fifth grade class (“I was so excited—I didn’t even know he was teaching fifth grade!), a challenging fourth-grade teacher (“I didn’t like it at the time, but now I see she was a great teacher”), a teacher who taught snowflake dances during the Saturday make-up/snow day. (Who knew going to school on a Saturday could be fun?). They began sharing stories about their favorite moments—the Multicultural Festival dances (from a Harriet Tubman dance to performing Michael Jackson’s Thriller), Battle of the Books, the Book Fair, Science Share, the Waller Farm.
What came across clearly-–in their individual stories and their shared memories of Forest View—is the meaningful ways teachers connect us to each other. The students talked not just about what they learned at school, but also how teachers made them feel—that they mattered. As one student put it, “I felt really welcome at Forest View.”
Our Forest View teachers are the foundation for a community built on these personal connections, celebrating what makes us unique, challenging us to experiment and learn in new ways, creating school-wide and classroom-based projects to engage our head, heart, and hands. We create gardens and outdoor classrooms together. We participate in Tsunami and Hurricane Sandy relief efforts through fundraising, art projects, and interviewing Red Cross volunteers.
We create works of art from cardboard boxes. All these initiatives were led by teachers. And I think of our teachers waving goodbye to children on the buses on the last day of school, singing them into the summer (tissues are a must if you watch this!).
I think of my own child, now in fourth grade, whose kindergarten teacher still talks with her about school; whose current teacher welcomed her on Meet the Teacher night by talking about a science project she did on butterflies—two years earlier. (I had forgotten about that project); whose second grade teacher, now at graduate school at Harvard, always writes letters back to her.
Our teachers share a commitment to each child’s education across our school. As families, we can support our teachers in their work in a variety of ways. Here are six:
1. Contribute whatever you can to the Forest View Unfundraiser. Funds raised support innovative teacher projects, classroom supplies, fieldtrips, technology, books, and other resources teachers need to meet the needs of the children in our school. If you need a “procrastinators challenge”—we have raised $14,000 so far this year and are only $1, 000 from our goal. To donate, click here. To see how your donation helps teachers and the learning environments they’re creating, see the PTA budget here.
2. Support teachers’ Donors Choose grants. Some teachers write their own classroom grants to get supplies and classroom resources they need. You can help spread the word through your own social media contacts. Check with your room parent to see if your teacher has a Donors Choose grant. Or, if your class has a website, check it regularly for class updates. If I had checked my child’s class website this year (as I should have!), I would have noticed our class had a Donors Choose grant.
3. Rally to support educators and show your investment in public education. Join the Durham Association of Educators for a pep rally on Friday, November 1, 2013. They’ll assemble at the CCB Plaza (downtown Durham by the Bull) at 4:30 for a program filled with performances, art and games for kids, plus inspiring speeches from students, parents, school workers, and supporters. For more information, visit them on Facebook at I Love Public Schools Pep Rally or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Attend parent-teacher conferences and ask questions about your child’s education. Need ideas? Not sure what to say? Check out the NC PTA guide on family involvement, which includes checklists for staying involved in your child’s education, what to ask at parent-teacher conferences, and how to help your child at home.
6. Volunteer with projects/ programs already in full swing at Forest View. Contact room parent coordinator Jen Meldrum for the name/contact info for your child’s room parent so you can learn about classroom needs (field trip volunteers, class snacks) or contact Geoff Coltrane for PTA committee needs and leadership opportunities.
We can show we value our teachers in any number of ways–our time, encouragement and appreciation, active participation in our child’s education, financial support if we can. When we do, we support the very people who are the foundation of our school community.
—By Jennifer Ahern-Dodson